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To Cross or Not to Cross?

posted Dec 20, 2014, 4:27 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Dec 20, 2014, 4:28 PM ]
Sharing this post from the renowned tango teacher Oliver Kolker about whether the Cross should be led or not.

To Cross or Not to Cross

Many discussions have been taking place in the tango world in regard to the blessed cross as part of the basic Salida in Tango. I would like to share my opinion on the matter. Before writing about this, I investigated blogs written about this issue, and found it very interesting.

I discovered a lot of people are obsessed with the issue and have differing opinions; the ones who say: “you must lead the cross” and the others who say “you don’t lead the cross as long as you are walking outside of her”.

Can we say there are two schools?

Now, I will give you my opinion.

In Argentina, if you go dancing at any milonga and you start dancing, the minute you open to the side or you go backwards in order to arrive to step number 5, SHE WILL CROSS (95% OF THE THEM). Why? That is the basic figure, the basic pattern that is identified with the Argentine Tango Dance. In many other dances you could walk on the right side of the follower without her crossing I guess, but the cross in this moment, is TANGO. You can figure out the way I think.

I read that men, were saying, I cannot find a good reason as to why "a women should automatically cross." Because everything in this dance is lead. “We should teach the woman, to follow the lead for the cross.”

The problem is that many men (not well taught) when they lead the cross, they do it very badly, with no line, grace or style in order to accomplish the task. If you are in favor of leading or inviting the woman to the cross, you should do it by dancing her, and NOT as an isolated move that breaks the beautiful lines inherent in the basic step. I’ve seen this happen all the time - leaders announcing the cross, in many ways in order to accomplish this move.

The leading of the cross should not break the body alignment of the couple.

The leading of the cross becomes so important that leaders make up their own techniques, such as:
- Taking a step in a diagonal direction in order to signal the move
- Leading with the man’s left hand in order to affect the woman’s hip
- Moving her with his right arm in order to affect her hip

None of these moves are done by great Tango dancers. (I will not name anyone, because taste varies among people). When you see people who dance well, the cross becomes a natural move in the couple and understanding, regardless of the school, because if the cross is lead you don’t see it, and if is NOT you won’t see it.

Now I don’t want to sound like a strict dictator telling people how to dance; it is my suggestion to pay attention to the beauty of the body movement. Some people who dance don’t see it, and they can still dance. Some people don’t even care about it or how they look on the dance floor and still dance.

Here we come to another point in my analysis. One time I was talking with a Tango Instructor in NY (a good friend) and he told me that most of the people in the US, at the beginning of the Tango movement, did not care so much about the way they looked on the dance floor as much as they felt instead.

(That made me think again. In part what I’m saying is related to what I wrote in a previous blog about the Colombian couple.)


The technique of this dance is very complex?
People did not understand the elegance inherent to the dance?
Anxiety to start dancing right away, regardless of refining the body language.
A justification to say that feeling is more important than look?
Too much work
I want to be different, or creative…

I wonder why when we see a nice dancer in any venue we appreciate it? The feeling has nothing to do with it. This is an intimate issue that has no discussion because it’s like describing a kiss, caress or touch
Does this have to do with the context of how the dance is developed? When I started dancing nobody had to tell me who was elegant or talented and who wasn’t. I knew it right away. It made sense to me. It made sense that it requires a lot of work! Beauty Hurts!

Would I have the same sensibility to understand west coast swing or hustle or flamenco? Maybe, I don’t know…

When you learn a certain discipline with your body such as any martial art, or ballet, or sport that requires coordination, balance, grace, speed, efficiency, cleanness etc…the body must be trained. I don’t know if this happens or happened with Tango for the reasons I’ve quote before.

Oliver Kolker